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Families with pioneer roots honored by historical society
Five different families with deep local roots will be honored this week at the Second Annual Kitsap Heritage Banquet hosted by the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum.
The families being honored this year are the William DeShaw Family from Bainbridge Island, the Norum/Sommerseth/Langer Family from North Kitsap, the Charles E. and Edith Greaves Family from Central Kitsap, the John Gorst/Charles Ainsworth Family from South Kitsap and the James H. and Annie L. Lent Family from Bremerton.
"Every little corner of every little area of the county has its own wonderful history," said Anita Williams, a longtime historical society member.
Williams said that the heritage banquet is fast becoming a wonderful way to celebrate that history through living connections.
"It will become our signature event because it fits so well with what we're all about: preserving history, whether that's through oral history, documents or artifacts," she said. "We're very interested in preserving those things because it's important. As people listen to these stories about families that have been here for 100 years, it's emotional. There is some laughter and there are some tears."
Claudia Hunt, another longtime historical society member and current board member, did almost all of the legwork to gather information about each of the families being honored at this year's banquet.
"I went out and met with at least one representative from all of the families," she said. "They let me scan photos, talked and shared anecdotes, provided news clippings — there's a ton of ways of getting information."
Hunt's grandparents on her mother's side came to Bremerton from England in 1919. She said she grew up in South Kitsap talking about history around the dinner table.
"I come from a whole family of history lovers," she said.
Hunt said that area residents, especially in light of things such as the Heritage Awards, continue to be appreciative of the historical society's many efforts.
"They seem to all be happy that we're not just letting local history die and are tickled that we continue to work on it and educate people," she said.
The following brief vignettes of the Central Kitsap, Bremerton and South Kitsap pioneers that led to this year's award winners are culled directly from Hunt's extensive research:
Charles Edwin Greaves (1867–1944), came to Seattle in 1889, just after the great fire. He found living quarters for his family, a wife Edith McCurdy (b. 1870), and two small children, William (b. 1888) and Edith, who followed from Lowell, Massachusetts a few months later. In 1890, he took up a homestead close to the headwaters of the Little Beef Creek. Because the homestead was quite a distance from any settlement and the only means of travel was by horseback, Greaves decided to move his family back to Seattle where he worked for the Old Rainier Brewery.
In 1892-93, he managed a large Brigger farm on the Stillaguamish River near Stanwood. While there, his third child, a daughter Laurance (Laurie) was born.
In 1894, Greaves purchased 40 acres of land in Silverdale for $500, where the Kitsap Mall now is located. He later added 10 more acres. Charles cleared the land and built a family home. In 1896, Mr. Greaves joined the gold rush to Alaska. He made two trips there in the next four years while his family remained in Silverdale. In Alaska, he drove a dog sled carrying mail from Dawson Creek to Whitehorse for the Canadian Government.
A grandson, L.C. Greaves, lived on a portion of the property until 1984, eventually selling out to the developer of the mall.
James Hanford Lent (1851–1925) and Annie Lyon (1854–1918) of Nova Scotia, had seven children. In 1909, they came to Bremerton, following four of their sons. Since then, four generations have participated in the family plumbing business and served the community in various ways: state legislator, chamber of commerce, fire chief, Elks, Charleston City Councilman, Bremerton mayor and many other organizations of benefit to the community.
Shippy Brinton Lent, after serving with the Marines in Peking during and after the Boxer Rebellion, was discharged in Bremerton in 1904. He decided to stay here and persuaded the others to join him. Shippy married Margaret Maud Allgood, in Bremerton, in 1905. They had one daughter, Anna Mabel. After helping Lou start the family plumbing business, he sold his half-interest and started The Star Messenger Service. He began serving in the fire department in 1907 and was appointed fire chief in 1920, in charge of five full-time firemen. That same year the department moved to the new city hall and bought a Stutz pumper truck that combined chemical pumping and hose truck capable of pumping 1,000 gallons of water a minute. After his 1936 retirement from the fire department after 26 years, he worked as a city building inspector for the Housing Authority and did a short stint as a process server for the Bremerton courts. He was a charter member of the Elks Lodge No. 1181 and the Spanish American War Veterans.
The Ainsworth and Gorst families are closely connected by marriage and share a lot of the same history.
John P. Gorst was born in 1839 at Woodstock, New Brunswick, served two years in the Union Army during the Civil War and was honorably discharged in 1865 with special citation for bravery. During that year, Gorst married Lorinda Moore Coe at Oberlin, Ohio, a student at Oberlin College, the first women’s school in America. The couple moved to Belle Prairie, Minn., where they resided for the next 16 years. Six of their eight children were born there. John Gorst worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, cruised timber as a logger and later farmed before moving his family to Fort Ripley, Minn., where he built and operated a sawmill. He helped construct the first schoolhouse for the district, which also served as a church. Later, Gorst added a grist mill to his plant. The first schoolteacher in the district was Mrs. Jacob Showers, later a pioneer in Sidney. John Gorst’s daughter, May, also taught at Ripley after attending St. Cloud Normal School. The Gorst family arrived in Seattle in 1888, rented space in the home of a friend, Sam Phillips, and then settled on 60 acres at the head of Sinclair Inlet near Anderson Landing.
By July 1888, their new home was ready. The older Gorsts were later joined by their two older daughters’ families. Minnie and May Gorst had married Allison and Charles Ainsworth from New York. They met while the Ainsworth brothers were employed at the Gorst mill in Ripley, Minn. Their children were Minnie Eva (married Allison Ainsworth); Alice May (married Charles Ainsworth); and Effie Grace (married Walter Wheeler). Lulu Viola taught school in Kitsap County for several years before she married Charles Taylor, an Alaskan. They spent most of their married life in Alaska. The youngest of the children, Lorena (Rena), married Ralph Siegner. The Siegners built their home on Mitchell Hill not far from the Ainsworths, where they reared daughters Laurice Siegner (Hayden), Port Orchard; Celeste Siegner (Patterson), Tacoma; and Melba Siegner (Moran), Port Orchard.
John Gorst was postmaster, delivered mail and received supplies brought in by steamers Ellis and Grace for distribution in the upper bay area. John died in a hunting accident in 1906; Lorinda died seven years later.
In 1895, John Gorst’s brother Samuel joined the family at the head of the bay. He bought a 160-acre tract from the Port Blakely Mill Company. The Sam Gorsts made their home for years on the north side of Gorst Creek and reared eleven children. Sam Gorst’s children were drawn away from the South Kitsap area either by marriage or careers when they became adults.